2024April 2024International News

Radio Silence? Burkina Faso Suspends Radio Broadcasts Over Coverage of Army Massacres Christian Montanez

Radio Silence? Burkina Faso Suspends Radio Broadcasts Over Coverage of Army Massacres

Christian Montanez

Staff Writer

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On April 26, the media regulatory body of Burkina Faso, the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication, or CSC, announced that both the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) radio stations would be suspended for two weeks due to their broadcasts which covered reports of mass killings by the nation’s military and warned all media networks to avoid any further coverage of the situation says the Associated Press. Since then, the situation has only continued to worsen and as of May 3, the International Press Institute, (IPI) reports that the CSC has implemented further bans on MondeTV and restricted all access to websites and newspapers such as the Guardian, Ecofin, Le Monde, APA, and Ouest-France, as the CSC claims that the media produced by these outlets is serving to spread disinformation and harm the credibility of Burkina Faso’s armed forces. As reported by Reuters, both the BBC and VOA maintained that their work was produced for purely public interest and fair reporting, not for political manipulation. Furthermore, the BBC and VOA are troubled by the actions of the CSC to suspend and limit the ability of their respective organizations to spread independent and accurate news and hope for a revision of the decision. Although these specific suspensions are new, it is not the first time that the Burkina Faso military junta has restricted the freedom of the press. According to the IPI, French journalists were previously expelled from the country and journalists who were outspoken critics were conscripted. All of these actions raise clear concerns over the ability of the people of Burkina Faso to access unadulterated and independent news sources, as with government restriction tightening it becomes clear that soon the government will be the only source of information. 

This censorship appears to be an attempt by the military junta, which overthrew the democratically elected government in September 2022, to seize control of the narrative that had begun to paint them as human rights abusers. The catalyst that sparked foreign media outlets to report on the abuses of the Burkina Faso military is the independent human rights group known as Human Rights Watch (HRW). Widely accepted as one of the premier and trustworthy independent sources of international human rights news, HRW reported that the pro-government forces have committed several human rights violations including the massacre of over 156 civilians, the torture of civilians, and the pillaging and destruction of civilian targets. More specifically, the BBC reported that over 220 civilians were massacred on February 25, when soldiers sought out civilians and killed anybody who tried to escape or hide as revenge killings for the village’s supposed support of rebels. 

Despite reputable news organizations such as BBC and independent watchdogs like the HRW making similar claims of Burkina Faso’s human rights violations, The Guardian reports that the government still refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing and holds that all the alleged crimes are imaginary. Furthermore, according to France24 there have been protests outside of the US embassy in the capital city of Ouagadougou, where hundreds demanded that the US cease accusations of crimes committed by the military, who are seen as heroic for fighting terrorist rebels. Evidently, there exists a clear disconnect and lack of access to information for those within the country and the international community, leading to concerns about what the people of Burkina Faso are actually being told.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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